By Katie Boody
Apple and Google have been able to stand on the cutting edge of innovation for over a decade now, rolling out newer and faster technologies that consistently capture the public’s imagination. Nimbly, they create inventions that alter the way we interact in our day to day lives. However, one thing is consistent among all top innovative companies and large corporations--a strategic investment in research and development as well as on-site innovation. Why don’t we replicate this practice in education?
Instead we roll out wide-sweeping, often untested, top-down reform policies and procedures that impact hundreds, thousands, and millions of kids. And often, such reform measures fail. Remember the NCLB goal of 100% proficiency by the end of the 2013-14 school year? According to the most recent NAEP exam results, only 44% of white students, 18% of black students, 20% Hispanic and 51% of Asian/Pacific Islander students are reading at grade level by 4th grade -- hardly 100% proficiency. Moreover, the U.S. ranks 17th in reading and 27th in math on the PISA exam in comparison to other industrialized nations.
We clearly are not reaching our goals in proficiency and international competition, and gaps between minority, poor children and their affluent white peers are not narrowing. At the same time, accountability measures for teachers and schools are at an all-time high. However, we sorely lack new, innovative solutions that address and redefine teaching and learning at its core. So, how do we achieve such ambitious goals with our current system’s outdated learning modalities (direct instruction) and high-stakes testing policies/reforms? Most other industries respond to such problems by investing in strategic innovation and research and development, but why do we not do the same in education? Searching for some answers on R&D use and innovation in general, I uncovered the following:
So what would it take to invest more strategically in innovative approaches in education? Why not use rapid prototyping in laboratories and small batch testing to pilot new solutions that better teaching and learning? Why not leverage top talent and minds at respected universities to create better solutions for kids and teachers? Why not create an institutional culture, like Google’s or Israel’s, that values thinking and breakthroughs? If we employed these strategies, could we find cutting-edge solutions that could meet the needs of our teachers and students and close the gap between our minority students living in poverty and their peers? Could we find solutions that put American students on the top of the PISA list, as we outperform other nations?